Will You, Shall You, Will You, Shall You Save a Bear?*





Posted by M. K. Waller

Giant HEB grocery cart @ the Texas Book Festival, October 2014

One of my Sisters in Crime invited me yesterday–online–to help staff the Heart of Texas’ chapter’s booth at the Texas Book Festival in November. The online invitation invited me to schedule the event on my online calendar. And how glad I am that I did, because in so doing I discovered that my WWW post is due today.

As you might have guessed. I rarely look at my calendar. I rarely remember I have one. It comes to mind when my husband remarks he’s putting something on his calendar. That’s the way we operate–he remembers everything, so uses a calendar; I don’t, so I don’t.

Anyway, my (perpetual) pledge to write all posts in advance of need went kablooie. But it wouldn’t have mattered if I’d looked at the calendar every day. I have been too distracted to write.

“shelf with stuff” by Lynn Kelley Author licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

I’ve discovered Candy Crush.

For months, perhaps years, I’ve wondered about Candy Crush. I’ve seen ads for it on Facebook, and FB friends have invited me to play. I’ve even seen ads on television. But with characteristic self-discipline, I restrained myself.

“Candy Crush is a time waster, the work of the devil,” I said, “and I shall not partake.”

To reinforce my resolve, I added, “I will not partake.” One gem I retain from grammar class is the proper use of shall and will:

Shall is used to denote simple futurity: I shall write my post for Writing Wranglers and Warriors early so I don’t have to stay up half the night wondering what to say and the other half saying it. (i.e., I’m gonna get this over with early.)

Will, on the other hand, denotes both futurity and determination: I will write my post for Writing Wranglers and Warriors early so I don’t have to stay up half the night wondering what to say and the other half saying it. (It’s gotta happen, so it’s gonna happen, so help me Hannah.)

Some people claim  the shall/will rule is archaic and unnecessary. It isn’t generally observed now, especially in the United States. But I learned it, and I remember it, and I follow it.

Except for this time. If I’d said, “I will write my post early,” it would have been all tucked away in the queue several days ago, waiting for automatic posting at 12:01 a.m. (four minutes ago).

But again I lie: It wouldn’t have been ready. Because curiosity got the better of me. I took the click bait, added it to my Facebook page, and got hooked. I am a sucker for games in which three pastel or neon-hued thingies smash together and disappear in a burst of color.

With every burst of color, my brain releases a burst of dopamine. Dopamine is better than candy.

In my haste to play, I skipped the rules, so I can offer only a fuzzy description of the past week’s activities:

Bears. I’ve been saving bears, uncovering bears, and getting bears in little bubbles to float from the bottom of a container of liquid to a point above a string of tiny pink and blue candies that look like mints.

Candy Crush box. © MKWaller

Jellies. I’ve been dissolving jellies. They look like Chiclets individually encased in little plastic sleeves. For a long time, I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to be smashing and gathered monochrome threesomes randomly. That’s not the most efficient way to dissolve jellies.

Ingredients. I’ve been gathering ingredients. I don’t know what recipe they’re using, but cherries and acorns are the only ingredients available for gathering.

There are a lot of three-smash games online. Most require no thought. That’s why I play them. The hand moves, the mind drifts. If you lose, you lose, and then you begin again.

Candy Crush, on the other hand, is sneaky. I’ve been stuck on the same level for hours at a time. As soon as I learned how to clear all the jellies, CC stuck a mountain of divinity on the board and later added chocolate. When I reached a certain level, squares of chocolate already cleared started to reappear, just in time to plop down onto a candy I was targeting. Keeping chocolates from retaking the board requires speed and skill. I have the skill, but I can’t muster enough speed to use it.

To make things interesting–and to keep players playing–there are ways to smash more than three candies at a time. Smash four or five at once and the board goes crazy, zapping candies all over the place and piling up points. But I’ve noticed that the higher I go, the fewer zaps I get. Sneaky.

Bear in bubble (saved) © MKWaller

The game has an attitude, too, a snarky one. Some levels mark a loss by sliding out a sign saying, You’re so close, only three more bears to uncover. Sometimes it’s manipulative and plays on guilt: You didn’t save all the bears. Then it says you can buy more plays. No way. I click Give up. Then another sign appears to say, You failed. And again I click Give up. That transaction strikes me as rude. I’m not paying anyone who says, “You failed.”

Candy Crush has another tactic designed to rake in cash: Each day when you start the game, it lets you retry and retry and retry to pass a level. If you pass, you move up to the next. But if you fail, the game gets stingy. You click Retry, and here comes a little box telling you to either ask friends to give you more plays or buy them from the company.

I’ve already said what I think about paying for dopamine.

And I’m not about to tell friends I’m wasting my time on a mindless computer game. They can see that I’m playing–I’ve been ranked on the leader board among former students and former colleagues and other people who (maybe) thought I knew better.

Then, when you close that box, up pops a little clock that counts down the minutes until you get another life–in other words, until you can resume play. The first time, you’re paused for only four minutes, or eight, but soon you find yourself stalled for a good thirty minutes.

Ball-and-stick model of the dopamine molecule is licensed by Jynto under Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication

It’s like they’re withholding my dopamine until I pay the ransom.

If Candy Crush played nicely with others, I would be ashamed to admit this, but it doesn’t, so I’m not–I have found a way to reduce my time in limbo without touching my pocketbook. After playing Candy Crush Saga for several days, I discovered Candy Crush Soda Saga. I added it to my FB page and opened it and played it, and got all kinds of dopamine . . . and when it told me to pay up or get out, I reopened Candy Crush Saga, whose clock had by that time run down, and I played that until I failed too many times, and then I went back to Candy Crush Soda Saga and …

The system isn’t perfect. Because wait times vary, I can’t play continuously. To take the edge off my dopamine deficit, I find other things to do in the interim: work the crossword puzzle, eat organic toaster pastries, think about working on a short story I started fifteen months ago, writing a blog post…

It’s amazing how much you can get done in those little bits of time if you use them wisely. I’ve written this entire post while waiting for alternating Candy Crush games to finish their countdowns.

And I haven’t lost any more sleep than I normally do composing the traditional way. Plus,  my brain is simply awash in dopamine.

And between finishing the preceding paragraph and beginning this one, I saved one bear (from drowning, I guess), cleared all the jellies off a board, amassed 240,600 points, declined to share news of my achievements on Facebook, and received an offer to play again in 15 minutes.

And it’s not even 2:30 a.m. yet.

Who says Candy Crush is a time waster?




I’m a retired librarian living in Austin, Texas, and amusing myself by writing fiction and herding cats. My stories have been published in Mysterical-E and in Austin Mystery Writers’ crime fiction anthology, Murder on Wheels. My latest publication is “I’ll be a Sunbeam” in DAY OF THE DARK: Stories of Eclipse, edited by Kaye George and published by Wildside Press on July 21, 2017, in celebration of the total solar eclipse that will be visible from parts of the United States on August 21.